In Part 1 of our exclusive interview, stand-up comedian and Elland Road MC Jed Stone offers HITC a peak behind the curtain at Leeds United, from surviving Massimo Cellino to dealing with Terry Yorath's on-stage rants.
From promotions to relegations, financial ruin to record signings, the thrill of the Champions League to heartbreak in League One, Jed Stone has seen it all.
But in 50 years as a devoted fan of Leeds United, the stand-up comedian and match day host of Elland Road had never experienced a campaign quite like the last one. Marcelo Bielsa’s topsy-turvy debut season at Elland Road started with ecstatic highs and ended with the crushing low of that play-off semi-final defeat to Derby County, a script so dramatic it spawned a six-part documentary.
Even Jed, whose positivity radiates through whether in person or over a landline, found it difficult to put a brave face on things.
“After the Derby game, I was absolutely heartbroken,” he recalls, despair still creeping through his slight Scouse tones.
“I just talked to the crowd in the Elland Road pavilion about what it’s like to be a Leeds fan for 50 years. I was in tears.”
But, once the tears dried and players returned for pre-season, Jed was ready to put himself through the emotional ringer once again. He, like thousands more from Scandinavia to Sri Lanka, is hooked on Leeds United. He has been for half a century.
“My first ever Leeds game was in 1969, at Goodison Park funnily enough,” says Jed, who comes from a family of committed Evertonians. “My dad and my granddad took me to knock the Leeds thing out of me!”
Instead, it only strengthened the bond between Jed and the proud old club from across the Pennines. His blood always ran white rather than blue and now the Stone family have Leeds in their veins too.
“I’ve indoctrinated my son Oscar (a former mascot who now works at All Leeds TV, a YouTube channel with 10,000 subscribers) in the misery that is Leeds United.”
Where it all began
The match day build up at Elland Road just wouldn’t be complete without the pint, the pie, the peas and the pre-match ramble from Jed and the crew.
Ably assisted by a selection of legends from Bobby Davison and Mel Sterland to Tony Dorigo and Jermain Beckford, he chortles his way through the pre-match discussion with infectious enthusiasm.
Jed loves his job and that shines through. So it’s hard to believe that, not so long ago, he was mulling over handing in his season ticket. Like so many others, he’d grown tired of the negativity and the uncertainty that surrounded the club during the dreaded Massimo Cellino era.
Remarkable stories about the Italian’s reign of terror live long in the memory, even today. Cellino famously axed goalkeeper Paddy Kenny due to his irrational fear of the number 17, according to the Guardian. Kenny was born on May 17th.
“We were going nowhere under Cellino. It was a ridiculous...time wasn’t it. I’d had enough. I wasn’t going to renew season ticket,” Jed admits.
But an encounter with Leeds’ commercial manager, Stu Dodsley, at a club golf day in 2013 changed everything. There was a vacancy as the match day host of Elland Road opening up and the chance for Jed to go from a fan to the host at one of England’s most atmospheric old arenas.
“Keith Hanvey (who still works in the West Stand) was hosting the event and I was just the comic,” says Jed. “I said to Stu ‘When Keith decides to hang up his microphone, I would love to be the host of Leeds United’.
“You don’t think anything of it do you?
“Then, three days before 2013/14 season kicked off, Stu phones out of the blue. He said ‘Do you want to come and MC the Middlesbrough game on Saturday?’. I said ‘Wow, do I?!’.
“Stu said Cellino had a cull. The only guys who’d been kept on were (club legends turned ambassadors) Eddie Gray and Peter Lorimer. Ridiculous really. That’s the way I got in – and I’m cheap as well!” Jed laughs.
“It saves me buying a season ticket but I’d have been there anywhere. All that bluster about not renewing my season ticket, I probably would’ve done.
“I love it, I absolutely love it.”
Statistics and swearing
That’s not to say this dream job is not without its challenges. Jed tries to keep things positive when he can, though sharing a stage with the straight-talking Terry Yorath wasn’t an easy task after a home defeat.
“You can’t fool 38,000 Leeds fans when you get beat at home by Cardiff or Millwall. You can’t go up to the mic and say ‘oh we weren’t so bad today were we?’ though you’ve got to keep the glass half full.
“But Terry is Terry and that’s why everyone loves him. (After a defeat) he’d go berserk. The worst thing he did was when it was a kids and family event, he got up on stage and said ‘this is absolutely sh**e!’
“The former players are brilliant,” Jed adds. “Steve Hodge is Mr Facts and figures, he’s our ‘statto’. He comes round each week with a big book of stats. Bobby Davison, Tony Dorigo, they’re great students of the game.
“When you’re sat there with them, they see the game completely different from the way we see it because they’ve played in it, they’ve managed it. I’d be screaming like a fan, saying something stupid and then Bobby would say, ‘No the reason that happened was because of this’ and you think ‘god yeah you’re right’.
“I’ve only been watching the game for 50 years!”
Beckford, who is still fondly remembered for sliding home the winning goal in that famous FA Cup triumph at Old Trafford in 2009, recently became the latest addition to Leeds’s match day crew. Jed, whose son Oscar has a giant poster of the former number nine decorating his bedroom wall, can’t wait to work with a modern-day club legend.
But that’s not all he has to be excited about.
Read part 2 of our Jed Stone interview next week
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